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An interview with Maggie Enterrios of Nature Observer

by Timber Press on October 18, 2017

in Craft, Design

“When you buy a piece of wall art, it creates ambiance and you can look at it when you come home. When you wear art, you take it with you everywhere you go, and it allows you to express yourself to the world.”

Do you keep a journal, planner, or bullet journal?

I start every single week by filling out a weekly planner, outlining my major goals for the week and my daily milestones. With so many busy deadlines, meetings, and moving pieces, I like to see everything at a glance. Pro tip: I like to use my monthly trackers on individual projects! I place my projects on the vertical access and mark every day that I work on them. It’s a way of checking in each day on project progress to help me not drop the ball on anyone.

Your work is deeply influenced by the natural world. Where do you find inspiration amid the urban environment of Chicago?

It’s true! It can be hard to find natural inspiration when you’re living the urban city life. But the amazing thing about Chicago is that there is a real emphasis on beauty and nature throughout the city. My husband and I love to go on bike rides up to the Chicago Botanic Garden, and I visit the Garfield Park Conservatory at least once a season. I also travel quite a bit; we have a home in the mountains in California (much of my inspiration for Nature Observer came from hikes in that area) and my family is from Hawaii, which obviously provides amazing plant references!

My greatest joy is discovering inspirational signs of life around me, no matter where I am. When I go for mornings walks with my girlfriends, I always slow us down by pointing out and photographing new buds and unique leaves in neighboring gardens. Last year, I was on a distillery tour with some friends in the middle of Louisville, Kentucky, and I spotted a plant I had been seeking for months—the Jamaican castor plant. If you keep a keen eye, there are beautiful things to discover anywhere you are. I also have three beloved Devil’s Ivy plants to keep me company—Fluffy, Fluffy Jr., and Fernadette.

Your illustrations are intricate and gorgeously detailed. What do you love drawing most? Is there anything you find especially hard to illustrate?

I absolutely love drawing bugs, snakes, and fish. I find it so fun to draw something that already has an implied texture or pattern. Oftentimes I get carried away and create patterned creatures that don’t truly exist in the animal kingdom but look like they might be discovered in some faraway jungle 1,000 years from now. The most difficult? Coconuts. If someone would have told me five years ago how many coconuts I’d draw in my career, I would have been aghast. I have had nightmares about drawing coconuts.

You work in paper and ink as well as digital illustration. Can you compare your process in the two mediums?

Technology is amazing. While I love to work on paper for the tactile experience, working digitally allows me so much more freedom in location. I created Nature Observer both by hand with ink and paper, and on my iPad using the Procreate app. By creating digital brushes that mimicked my own ink drawings, I was able to work on the go, and I created pages in California, Chicago, and upstate New York.

You sell some of your designs on shirts and sweatshirts, and you’ve just started doing customized leather jackets (which are the coolest). What do you find appealing about creating wearable art?

There is something so fulfilling to me about creating wearable art. The first time I put on one of my own leather jackets, I had an overwhelming sense of joy and confidence. It was an awakening for me artistically: When you buy a piece of wall art, it creates ambiance and you can look at it when you come home. When you wear art, you take it with you everywhere you go, and it allows you to express yourself to the world.

Tell us a little bit about your education and background in visual art. When did you first realize you loved drawing and illustration?

I have always been a maker, and I don’t think I’ve ever truly experienced the feeling of “boredom.” There’s always something to be built, sewn, drawn, or photographed. When I was young, a trail of paint splatter or glitter was always nearby (I suppose it still is!). I went to school for visual art and found a job as a graphic designer at the beginning of my junior year. While I was not particularly fond of digital design, I was grateful to have a job in my field during a particularly tough economic period, and I made it a point to glean as much as I could over the next several years.

I knew that I wanted to start a design business of my own, so I steadily worked freelance for a decade with a goal in mind: If I could find twenty solid hours of freelance work each week for one year (on top of my fifty-plus-hour-a-week day job) then surely I could take the leap. I was perpetually exhausted but very determined. After I booked a job illustrating for Apple, I knew it was the right time. It was the burst of confidence I needed and a solid example of what I was able to create with just my night and weekend free time. I knew that if I gave myself the chance, I could fill every other hour of the week with freelance work. I still work nights and weekends, but now it’s out of love and not out of desperation.

Your prints were featured on the “Stuff We Love” segment of the TODAY Show in January. What was that experience like?

My TODAY Show feature was so exciting. A lot of opportunities have been! They got in contact with me only a couple days before the feature was supposed to air, on a holiday weekend, when I was on vacation with no Wi-Fi or access to printing. I spent forty-eight hours relying on the goodness of friends (and strangers!) to create and deliver prints to the studio in time. It was such a rush!

Ultimately though, the greatest feeling of success I have comes from a sense of personal fulfillment. If I fall asleep at night feeling as though I created something truly beautiful or meaningful, or I can’t wait to wake up just so I can get back to work—that’s when I feel the most successful.

In addition to being a talented artist, you’re also a driven and resourceful business person! How does your professional work in branding influence how you speak to your own audience?

I worked for five years in art direction, and I feel very fortunate that I was able to build a corporate design vernacular before launching my own illustration business. When so many of my clients now are in marketing or advertising, it’s helpful to be able to speak to them in their own language. I used to hire and manage freelancers myself, so I understand how communication works from both ends.

It also taught me to understand the fast pace of the design world and how quickly project deadlines or directions can change. I like to joke that I deal with 100% rejection: most project inquiries fall through, and that’s just part of the job! I think my temperament is what makes me most successful, and I can’t stress that enough. I make it a point not to dwell on a mistake or lost project for more than five minutes. Instead, I champion my successes and move on to the next opportunity!

What has been the biggest obstacle to overcome running Little Patterns?

I often miss working in a collaborative design environment. When I began working for myself, I didn’t realize how much I had previously relied on a gut-check from a fellow designer or copywriter in order to push my work to the next level. I now find myself having to actively seek out feedback or inspiration from other sources.

What do you think will be the next big movements or trends in illustration and handlettering?

With the 90s back in full effect, I hope we’ll also see a revival of maximalism! For years, “simple and modern” were the keywords in design. Lately, I’ve noticed a lot more full-patterned packaging and excess of embellishments, and I’m completely onboard.

What’s next for you?

Oh-so-many things. I’m really enjoying working in packaging right now, and I would love to get more experience in the beauty and food and beverage markets. This year I have a textile line coming out, and I’m going to continue working on wearable painted art and accessories, which provides me with so much artistic fulfillment. I adored creating Nature Observer, and I hope there are many more books in my future!

In 2018, I’m hoping to expand my team and bring on another designer. Other than that, one of these days I’d really love to finally take a nap.

Maggie Enterrios is a Chicago-based illustrator and design consultant who is known for intricate black ink drawings inspired by typography and nature. See more of her work at littlepatterns.com.

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Click image for a look inside this book.

Introducing a new way to journal. This year-long book is filled with beautifully illustrated calendars, goal trackers, weekly planners and writing prompts meant to spark your creativity. Nature Observer follows the seasons and encourages you to organize your daily life while appreciating and exploring the outdoors on a constant basis.

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